Validity of International Health Regulations in Reporting Emerging Infectious Diseases

Edelstein, Michael; Heymann, David L.; Giesecke, Johan; Weinberg, Julius
July 2012
Emerging Infectious Diseases;Jul2012, Vol. 18 Issue 7, p1115
Academic Journal
Understanding which emerging infectious diseases are of international public health concern is vital. The International Health Regulations include a decision instrument to help countries determine which public health events are of international concern and require reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO) on the basis of seriousness, unusualness, international spread and trade, or need for travel restrictions. This study examined the validity of the International Health Regulations decision instrument in reporting emerging infectious disease to WHO by calculating its sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value. It found a sensitivity of 95.6%, a specificity of 38%, and a positive predictive value of 35.5%. These findings are acceptable if the notification volume to WHO remains low. Validity could be improved by setting more prescriptive criteria of seriousness and unusualness and training persons responsible for notification. However, the criteria should be balanced with the need for the instrument to adapt to future unknown threats.


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